A Conversation About the Cloud With the School District of Clay County
The cloud is quickly becoming an omnipresent entity, enabling organizations to virtualize nearly every tangible aspect of their operations. However, some school districts have been reluctant to introduce this new form of technology due to security, personnel, or financial concerns.
As a leading pioneer in the education technology space, the School District of Clay County (Clay) has embraced the power, reliability, and scalability of cloud computing. The district recently deployed ENA TrustCompute, ENA’s hosted virtual data center solution, to streamline, simplify, and secure their data management and storage processes. Members of Clay’s technologyteam—Jeremy Bunkley, Ethan Caren, and Jon Skipper—shared with ENA why they deployed a hosted cloud solution and the steps they are taking to build an externally-based network.
“With the rapid change in the education model, it is easier for us to deploy a hosted cloud solution than it is to continue trying to build and maintain expensive internal data centers,” said Jeremy Bunkley, Clay’s director of information services. “We call ourselves an externally-based network because we are building just about everything we can in the cloud. We have finite resources and a great deal to accomplish for our schools. Efficiency is mission critical.”
“After surveying all the choices, ENA TrustCompute was the best option for us to meet our goal of efficient, scalable virtual computing,” says Bunkley. “It is very user-friendly. After one demo, I knew our team wouldn’t have any problems deploying it. And we haven’t. Bringing the solution online was both simple and rapid. We had the main controller online and the virtual machine spun up, promoted, and connected to our network in very short order.”
“Instead of spending weeks learning how to operate a cloud solution and spin up a platform, we should be innovating, doing research and development, making other improvements, and solving problems—not struggling with new technology and filing daily help tickets,” adds Ethan Caren, Clay’s coordinator of information services. “ENA TrustCompute is simple and user-friendly—those are its biggest selling points.”
You were already an ENA Internet Access customer before implementing ENA TrustCompute. How has that helped?
“ENA TrustCompute definitely has some built-in advantages over other competitors because ENA is our network service provider,” says Bunkley. “That enabled us to bypass some setups we would have had to do with other companies. For us, making the switch to ENA TrustCompute was simple because ENA feels more like an extension of our internal network rather than an external network.”
“We moved to a domain controller first,” says Bunkley. “It was a natural progression for us because we are in the ENA networking side of the world. It made a lot of sense for us to do that.”
“We are moving our active directory sites and services,” says Caren.
“We still house and manage a couple of applications internally, but we are trying to get away from that and host everything externally,” says Bunkley. “The only applications and programs that we are housing internally are the things that we need to function. We have made huge strides in the past two years, but we are just not quite there yet.”
It can be difficult for districts to identify what applications or systems they should migrate to the cloud. How does your team make those decisions?
“We always conduct a thorough risk analysis,” says Jon Skipper, Clay’s supervisor of information services. “For example, we chose the main controller first primarily because that was something that we were the most comfortable with. We could have opted to go to sequel boxes, but the direction we went was logical for us. It’s critical to identify your specific challenges and goals and determine the best path that meets your network needs.”
Finally, what advice would you give administrators or technology teams who are nervous about the cloud?
“Security is always a big concern,” says Bunkley. “However, I know ENA and other companies are spending significantly more money on security than schools. I’d rather take advantage of the financing ENA puts into securing ENA TrustCompute than spend our limited funds and time securing and maintaining internal data centers ourselves.”
Education Networks of America (ENA) delivers transformative technology solutions supported by exceptional customer care to education and library institutions across the nation. Since 1996, we have worked with our customers to design and engineer high-capacity and future-ready broadband, Wi-Fi/LAN, communication, cloud, and security solutions. To learn more about ENA’s tailored cloud computing solutions for education and libraries, please visit https://www.ena.com/cloud/.